Took a break from Toronto Fringe yesterday afternoon to stop by the Revue Cinema to see the Shinsedai Cinema Festival screening of The Naked Summer, directed by Kenji Okabe, with cinematography by Yutaka Yamazaki.
First up was film short Tsuki-Yomi, directed by Team Gatera, a 16mm visual feast of nature and transformation, both beautiful and repulsive, expressive and understated.
The Naked Summer follows a group of dance students – professional and amateur – through a summer retreat with butoh dancer Akaji Maro in an intense butoh dance workshop, living together and studying the movements and philosophy of the discipline.
Footage of Maro and his company’s performances are included in the film – beautiful, disturbing, fun and primal spectacles of this traditional Japanese dance. The retreat culminates in an outdoor performance in the Japanese countryside, and the dancers are naked except for tiny thong-like loin coverings and covered entirely in gold body paint, the women painted white on their faces and necks, and the men with shaved heads and eyebrows.
Both visceral and spiritual, it is an incredible piece to watch, the bodies trained into finely tuned instruments of butoh, moving in synchronization from fingertips to legs to faces. The performance takes place at night and torches twirl as part of the choreography as these shining gold buddha bodies dance with intensity, joy and total commitment. It is mythical in proportion – heaven and hell, birth and death.
If you ever get a chance to see The Naked Summer, please do. The Shinsedai Cinema Festival continues today, closing at 8 p.m. tonight with its final screening, Tentsuki. For more info, visit the festival’s website here: http://shinsedai.ca/